Tuesday, February 11, 2014


A common French legend is the idea that in France, there is always a certain amount of red tape standing between you and whatever logistical goal you feel entitled to. The problem with the word legend, however, is it has the connotation that the facts stand on a bit of unverifiable history. On the contrary, almost every ex-patriot from any country has a tale to tell regarding their adventures trying to fly through the red tape. You will never fly, you will always slowly meander, trip over hurdles, and be told no. I have been rather fortunate not to have had any extreme issues with this... yet (knock on large amounts of sturdy and voluminous wood, preferably covered in magical glitter)... But today I muse on such ideas because I received my class schedule for my new semester and noted the following... My classes will be at 10am instead of 8am, the time slot I chose SECOND on my preferences which is mainly bizarre because I was under the assumption 10am was the most coveted of the pre-noon options. There was no school logo attached to the email and written very clearly at the bottom were the words "please do not reply". They do not wish to have people ask questions or voice concerns or even officially know that this communication was approved by the organization. Oh! I forgot to mention that this email came today and classes begin tomorrow, allowing me approximately zero notice to plan the next 5 months of my life. The good news is that for me, 10am might actually be a pleasant change to my 8am mornings. I might even be able to process most of the given information and proceed to speaking fluently elegant French. 

It just made me think once again about the differences between French and American culture. Red tape to Americans is like rainbows to a unicorn. It's like a siren calling you forward to challenge the system and not even break through, but rather entirely circumnavigate the pre-established order. I did, in fact, reply to the email I wasn't supposed to reply to and asked what email I COULD ask questions of. Miraculously, I received an response, proceeded to email that address several times and got some version of the answers I was looking for. In a culture where 30 minutes late is generally perceived to be on time, I don't wonder why things are slightly less straightforward. There are a billion public holidays, many shops are not open on Sundays, the Metro doesn't run all night, and the concept of only two-weeks vacation is laughable. This is so much less a go get em' culture and so much more an enjoy life while you got it culture... Basically, I don't have time to make your life easier in terms of things completely unimportant in the grand scheme because I am too busy dealing with the things that make life worth living in the first place... Lessons being learned outside of school daily...

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